(ERGO) – A speedboat run by the health ministry in a remote part of northeastern Somalia’s Puntland region is helping to save lives by ferrying emergency patients to hospital.
The speedboat, donated by the international NGO Save the Children in March, has been especially valuable in saving pregnant women and their babies with childbirth complications.
Farhiyo Mohamed Ahmed, a mother of five living in Haabo village in the isolated area of Alula, took the speed boat ambulance to the major port city of Bosaso after doctors in Alula told her she had dangerously high blood pressure and they could not help her.
She successfully delivered her baby in hospital Bosaso. It was her third maternity trip to the city, although on the previous two occasions she had to hire a local fishing boat at a cost of $800 to get there.
Alula, on the tip of the Horn where the Gulf of Aden meets the Indian Ocean, lies 430 km from Bosaso. The road to Bosaso is dangerous, dusty and rough. The terrain is mountainous and hard to navigate by ordinary vehicle. The fastest vehicles from Alula take more than 30 hours to reach Bosaso.
The speed boat ambulance, by contrast, takes six hours to reach Bosaso, 170 nautical miles away.
Apart from pregnant women, others who have been whisked away for emergency treatment include a man injured in a fall from a high ridge whilst harvesting frankincense, and two knife wound victims.
According to Dr Adan Ali, health ministry coordinator in Gardafu – a new region in Puntland on the North Eastern tip of Bari – more than 30 pregnant women have delivered in Alula health centre free of charge since April, although the centre only offers basic services.
The health centre staff liaise with the ambulance boat when they have patients they are unable to help. The boat also delivers vaccines to remote villages.
The most recent patient to use the marine ambulance was a pregnant woman, whose journey by boat on 6 July was punctuated by a forced stopover at a small mountainous coastal village because of high winds and choppy waves. The boat reached Bosaso the following day and the woman gave birth successfully to a baby boy in hospital.
For some time, the boat was out of communication due to phone network failure and the authorities thought it had gone missing at sea.